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Acting Inca

Acting Inca: National Belonging in Early Twentieth-Century Bolivia

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    Acting Inca
    Book Description:

    For most of the postcolonial era, the Aymara Indians of highland Bolivia were a group without representation in national politics. Believing that their cause would finally be recognized, the Aymara fought alongside the victorious liberals during the Civil War of 1899. Despite Aymara loyalty, liberals quickly moved to marginalize them after the war. In her groundbreaking study, E. Gabrielle Kuenzli revisits the events of the civil war and its aftermath to dispel popular myths about the Aymara and reveal their forgotten role in the nation-building project of modern Bolivia.Kuenzli examines documents from the famous postwar Peñas Trial to recover Aymara testimony during what essentially became a witch hunt. She reveals that the Aymara served as both dutiful plaintiffs allied with liberals and unwitting defendants charged with wartime atrocities and instigating a race war.To further combat their "Indian problem," Creole liberals developed a public discourse that positioned the Inca as the only Indians worthy of national inclusion. This was justified by the Incas' high civilization and reputation as noble conquerors, along with their current non-threatening nature. The "whitening" of Incans was a thinly veiled attempt to block the Aymara from politics, while also consolidating the power of the Liberal Party.Kuenzli posits that despite their repression, the Aymara did not stagnate as an idle, apolitical body after the civil war. She demonstrates how the Aymara appropriated the liberal's Indian discourse by creating theatrical productions that glorified Incan elements of the Aymara past. In this way, the Aymara were able to carve an acceptable space as "progressive Indians" in society. Kuenzli provides an extensive case study of an "Inca play" created in the Aymara town of Caracollo, which proved highly popular and helped to unify the Aymara.As her study shows, the Amyara engaged liberal Creoles in a variety of ways at the start of the twentieth century, shaping national discourse and identity in a tradition of activism that continues to this day.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7860-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION: Indian Problems, Indian Solutions
    (pp. 1-15)

    On March 29, 1899, in the midst of a civil war pitting the Liberals against the Conservatives, the Liberal Party supporter and Aymara indigenous community leader of Peñas, Juan Lero, received a letter from a neighboring Indian community leader. Its author confirmed support for the Liberal Party and a willingness to coordinate military efforts among Bolivia’s highland indigenous communities on behalf of the Liberal leader, General José M. Pando. “I write to inform you,” stated José Maria Galligo, the community leader of Guayllani, “that here we are ready to take up the railroad tracks and fight against Alonso [president of...

  2. 1 THE AYMARA IN THE CIVIL WAR OF 1899: Enemy or Ally of the Liberal Party?
    (pp. 16-55)

    From December 1898 through April 1899, Creole and Aymara indigenous forces allied themselves with the Liberal Party in an effort to seize leadership of the country from President Severo Alonso and the ruling Conservatives. On April 10, 1899, the Liberal Party defeated the army and took control of the nation. This Creole-Aymara alliance, then, helped transfer power from one political party to another. Moreover, the rise of liberalism and the wartime experience itself promised social and political change. As the war neared its end and the Liberal Party’s victory drew close, Pablo Zárate Willka, acacique apoderado(Aymara community authority)...

  3. 2 FROM AYMARA LIBERALS TO EXEMPLARY INCAS: Nation Building in Early Twentieth-Century Bolivia
    (pp. 56-85)

    “Would you like to know what this country is like?” The Chilean author and diplomat Abraham Konig asked his wife this rhetorical question in a letter he wrote from Bolivia in 1909, continuing:

    Here, there is no wood or coal. You have to cook your food over llama droppings. . . . As one Frenchman wrote in a very bad book about Bolivia, “damned is this country where you have to wait for animals to shit so that you can eat.” . . . There are fifty Indians from Mohoza in jail, accused of murdering and then eating one hundred...

    (pp. 86-120)

    La Paz intellectuals were not the only group needing to redefine Aymara identity following the civil war. In the post-1899 context, Aymara communities increasingly attempted to distinguish and disassociate themselves from the infamous and stereotypical image of their people as savage. In addition, local representatives sought to differentiate segments within the Aymara population. For example, the town authority Modesto de Campo wrote in his report on the situation in Poopó that things were under control, for the indigenous people there were “more docile than those of the Choqueyapu region” in La Paz.¹

    The Civil War of 1899 and its aftermath...

  5. 4 NEW STAGES IN DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY: The Ethnic Politics of Caracollo’s Contemporary Inca Play
    (pp. 121-145)

    Elite residents of Caracollo acted Inca in the early twentieth century to seek resonance within the liberal nation-building project and to avoid the stigma of being Aymara; in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, however, folkloric performers have created new images of highland Indian identity. The Inca theater group still performs in the Fiesta del Rosario in contemporary Caracollo, but its current actors’ own memories and tradition inform the historical and contemporary significance of performing the Inca play. Where the documentary trail falters in the relatively unwritten history of Caracollo, the actors’ memories and understandings help inform a historical...

  6. CONCLUSION: Inca Play, Aymara Encore
    (pp. 146-156)

    In Bolivia, the Civil War of 1899 still stands at the crossroads of fierce contemporary political and regional conflicts. The war has occupied a central space in Sucre’s historical narrative for over a century; that city’s historical claim as the first, and previously only, capital of Bolivia has been rekindled in the light of Evo Morales’s presidency and the rewriting of the Bolivian constitution. Sucre’s narrative of 1899 constitutes a constant challenge to Morales’s presidency as well as to La Paz’s claim as the primary capital city. The Aymara leader Zárate Willka may not have become president in 1899, but...